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People are social creatures. Every person needs a social circle to chat and share their ideas with like-minded groups. That’s why social media platforms are constantly growing in popularity.

An average user spends two and half hours per day on social media services. Almost 4 billion people use social networks and each has around 8 accounts in different social services. It is clear that the competition is quite high. So why would you need to build your own social media app?

Recently, social networks transformed from a platform for people with similar interests to a powerful tool for marketing needs. Giants like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok are the primary sources of users’ data which is provided to numerous advertisers. They collect various information about users and their behavior to help promotional campaigns to reach the exact target audience. Sometimes, the security of such data gets out of control, and we find out about huge data leaks with accounts of more than millions of users being leaked. 

Moreover, popular social networks constantly change the activity feeds algorithms making some content appear more often while making others content get off the grid.

By creating your own social media application you can receive more insights about your audience, create a strategy for communication with it, and have unlimited access to its attention. Build the network for direct interactions among common-interests users with no limitations and distractions.

Let’s delve into the social media application development, examining the crucial features, and find out how to make a social media app with functionality that will help you to understand what solutions you have to stand out from competitors.

Social Media Apps Trends

The idea of making a new social media app should include the concepts of how you can stand out from a lot of competitors. Audience interests are unstable and what it jumped onto yesterday, won’t engage it tomorrow. Keep your finger on the pulse of current social media trends. 

Marketplaces

Social media apps are a place where we all spend at least several hours per day. The possibility of shopping there without the need to leave to another service or app seems appealing to a lot of customers. No wonder, social apps like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest implemented shopping carts into their apps. A user just taps on the image of the product that he likes and is prompted to add it to the cart and complete checkout, everything still in the social media app interface. 

Data Analytics

It is crucially important to make insights from tons of data that business social accounts generate. It is a very labor-intensive process for social accounts managers to extract all the data, find the most useful metrics and transform them into valuable reports. That’s why the trend on automated analytics dashboards rises globally. It may not only gather information about likes, views, and reaches. It also gives hints on how to create a social media app that constantly widens its scope based on matter-of-fact which content is the most engaging, measuring the most relevant for followers content, reducing bounce rate and followers attrition. 

AR

AR is one of the biggest mobile app development trends in 2021. AR makes use of a video stream uploaded via phone camera and overlays another photo or video content in real-time affecting the environment around the user. It is widely used by Instagram and Snapchat and other social services not only as entertainment means but also to promote brands and better introduce products to customers. It helps them to better visualize having the object in real life, for example, a mask that adds lipstick, can not only amuse but also promote cosmetics brands and show how the product’s shade will look on the customer’s face. Such solutions are especially useful during pandemic times when virtual try-on replaces in-store fitting rooms. Nowadays 70% of customers are more loyal to brands that use AR as part of the shopping experience, it helps them to decide more quickly and overall boost sales for a brand. 

AI Chatbots

Businesses more and more often use chats in social media apps as a technical support channel. We live in the era when 53% of customers will prefer to buy from a business they can message in a social media chat, instead of making a call or sending an e-mail. The chatbots can work 24/7, analyze the request and find the required solutions, which can resolve customers’ problems within minutes. Chatbots are AI programs that can automatically answer customers’ requests for information with Natural Language Processing and Generating that makes responses out of just data, and make it sound like a natural conversation with a support technician.

Types of Social Media Apps and their Monetization

Social media types reflect the regular tasks customers performing and the main goal they want to achieve. Being aware of the type of your future app will help you analyze your competitors. Based on the analysis you learn how to create a social media app and how it can be profitable.

Social Networking

This is the type of social media that focuses on connecting people. It is a global forum to engage people all around the globe to engage in discussion. It grew from a simple network with the ability to create profiles, make groups, and build linkages with other members of society to our primary source of knowledge of everything around the world. Social networks allow raising brand awareness among app users by paid advertisement campaigns. This way of monetization was the most prevalent in recent years, among its adherents Facebook and Twitter. The commission depends on the number of views, target audience, and duration of the promotion. With this monetization model, social networks sell their traffic, so it is a working pattern for social networks with a lot of active users. 

Media Sharing Networks

Networks for sharing photos and short videos such as Instagram and Pinterest, provide businesses with excellent visual representation to potential clients. They differ from the social network in a way that they mostly provide visual experience sharing, adding caption is possible but is not substantive. YouTube is a huge video platform, the second most-visited website in the world, and the second-largest search engine. The rise of video content over all the rest has been trending the last few years. The media sharing services moved from social mobilization to monetization. Besides banners, overlays, popping up commercials, and other traditional marketing activities that online and offline businesses pay for, lately YouTube, Vimeo, and Flickr have moved to the Freemium model. It means users get free access to the service, though to receive access to original content or music library as with YouTube, they need to upgrade their account to Premium. In-app purchases are also gaining popularity. Instagram for example takes a 5% fee for all the products sold on Instagram Shopping, but raises 1416% percent of traffic and generates 20% more of revenue.

Community Blogs

Community blogs allow users to share their thoughts on any topic by writing a consistent narrative. Publishing a post about a niche topic may open discussion around it like on Quora or Reddit. Post may also comprise a review of all kinds of products or services. It helps other users to decide to deal with certain brands. Such reviews can be seen on Yelp or TripAdvisor. Users can use in-app online booking for best-rated hotels reservation or ordering food deliveries, bringing revenue shares to the app’s owners. If your blog is a community of experts that want to monetize their research and reviews, it is common to implement subscription or paywall models.

Stages of Social Media Application Development

We want to share with you NIX United’s approach to how to build a social media app with step-by-step processes for a full-cycle social media app development.

1. Planning and Analysis Stage

The strategy phase is the first phase of mobile app development. It is a comprehensive stage that includes generating ideas, researching, reviewing, and detailed prototyping of the future app. The strategy stage’s initial steps are detecting potential app users, establishing major concepts and goals, researching the competitors, and setting the unique selling point. Who is your app end-user? How to make a social media app unique and why would users visit your social network instead of competitors? What you’re betting on: the exceptional visual interface, enhanced user experience, innovative features, or monetization way. Also, at this stage, the development team after conducting a thorough analysis of the client’s wants and the market’s wants needs to establish technical documentation and select minimum viable product (MVP) features. For social media apps, such features usually include:

  • Sign up. Besides traditional registration forms, it may include solutions for authorization with other social accounts or phone numbers and the “forget password” screen with SMS or email personal verification. 
  • Profile creation. Should include the possibility of photo and video files adding.
  • Post creation. Depending on the type of social services, users may want to share a photo, video, text, live streams, review, or throw in thoughts for discussion.
  • Search. To establish social contact, users need to have the possibility to find friends. 
  • Chat. Users need to have the possibility to contact friends by sending messages that may include media files. For some social networks the ability to create group chats.
  • Feed. Engage customers with the latest news from friends and communities. 
  • Push notification. Notify users about recent activities with their posts, new messages, or news from their favorite community. 
Stages of social media application development

At this stage, you also need to choose a platform: iOS or Android. Take into account that the more popular system for social media apps’ development is iOS, it is also more widely used in developed countries such as North America, Western European countries, and Oceania that increases the chances of social app monetization. The picked system will also influence the scope of the app, size of the team, time for development, testing and deployment, and the cost of it. 

2. Design Stage

While building a social media app, you need to pay special attention to the UI/UX design of the application. Create a comprehensive user journey and information flow architecture. The intuitive and user-friendly design for such an application is a core function. It is important that it is easy to meet social goals. Simplistic appeal, lack of layout cluttering, and satisfactory functioning will determine a new app’s success or failure. The important factors to consider designing social media app:

  • Mobile-first. Besides the majority of Internet traffic comes from mobile sources, mobile share of social media usage reached 83% and keeps growing as nowadays popular social apps like Clubhouse, Snapchat, and TikTok were designed for phones and desktop versions of them either don’t exist or are extremely limited in functions. 
  • Intuitive navigation. Keep it simple as a minimalistic approach is the best in creating app navigation. Complex navigation with a lot of functions, difficult to recognize icons, and hidden primary options may confuse and frustrate your users. 
  • Comprehensive tools for all roles. Take care of simple and intuitive design for tools for content creators, publishers, and advertisers.

The primary focus of the stage is how to build a social media app style guide and complete UI/UX design, that passed all design stages from sketching, wireframing and prototyping to our app skins. Those design skins will be assigned to the development team for future programming. 

3. Development Stage

Finally, the team transforms plans and designs into an MVP that is a ready-for-usage app that should confirm that the app meets all the requirements and gather information from the first users to find out if it meets their expectations.

The process of development depends much on the infallibility of the previous two stages. This stage may be the most time-consuming and expansive, so be patient and precise. 

The development can be divided into two parts: client-side and server-side. Programming language, software development kit, software architectural patterns, and overall technical stack depend not only on project technical requirements but also the project ideas. You need to define your target audience and their needs to convert it into requirements. Based on these developers can provide you with solutions that meet the needs of your users.

Also, each system has its own strengths and weaknesses that should be considered. Building a social media app it is important to implement enhanced data security and upgrade performance to ensure data safety and high-load capacity. All these would be impossible without proper back-end development that includes the installation of servers, databases, and APIs that allow the software to interact with other software. The back-end tech stack usually includes Ruby, .NET, Postgre DB, and Redis.

To get more detailed info on the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of different tech stacks contact NIX United experts.

Stages of social media application development

4. Testing Stage

Testing should be provided at every stage of development, from the very beginning of the project. Automated and manual tests should be performed not just to overcome shortcomings like bugs and crashes of the app, but to prevent them and to ensure high quality of the performance on every critical stage of design and development. 

They differ by their ability to define project requirements and identify weaknesses at each SDLC stage. 

Why is this stage as important as all the previous ones? Because just fixing a bug can cause the emergence of many others and make a catastrophic collapse. Testing helps to avoid such a situation instead of fixing it and saves budget and reputation to project owners. How to make a social media app work out from the beginning? NIX United QA engineers set up a social media app testing strategy and can precisely detect how much performance, security, and usability tests will be needed.

Security testing is very important for social media apps, as every year major networks such as Facebook and Google come with disturbing news about data leaks. Unlike tech giants, for small social networks, losing users’ information may cost the project its life. So the testing team should examine all the possible vulnerabilities, chances of data spillages, and app algorithm of proceeding in case of a malware attack. Such testing should also check if your app corresponds to local restrictions such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Parliament or age restrictions such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that permits access to social media services for users aged under 13 years old. 

5. App Release and Support Stage

After developing and testing the app, it’s time to release the first version to the app store and grow the user community. A proper marketing strategy is a must. The team should prepare all the promotional materials to make your app stand out among the multiple others and to attract your target audience. After submitting the first version of the app, the team uses all kinds of analytics tools to identify user engagement, make necessary corrections in design or performance or upgrade the app with additional features to improve user acquisition and increase the app’s cost. 

Conclusion

Now when you are acquainted with the full cycle of social media app development, you are probably convinced that it is a challenging, time-consuming, and expensive process. Nevertheless, the leaders on the market constantly change, TikTok and Snapchat are nipping at Facebook and YouTube heels, so your app has all chances to reach wide popularity, you just need to keep your target audience’s needs in mind. NIX is a reliable tech partner that can find the best solutions on how to make development a seamless process, and give you a hand in every step from generating ideas to maintaining the already in use app.

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